Commitment-Phobe: A Christian Christmas
Having decided to move on from atheism, Commitment-Phobe is on a search for God
This year I face the question: What is Christmas about if you are a Christian? I understand the pagan elements of it – the tree, the feasting, the largesse – but years of scrunched up wrapping paper and Christmas day hangovers have worn off some of its glamour. What does focusing on Jesus make it? I guess I’ll know more when I get my well-done-you-are-a-Christian certificate handed to me at the end of my Alpha course.
Perhaps it’s about prayer. When we studied prayer at Alpha a few weeks back I made my first public prayer. I spoke it aloud, as it came to me, in a room full of people, and I didn’t die of embarrassment. What I can remember about that prayer, that night, and the ones I have made privately before and since, is that they are mostly about saying thank you, thank you, and thank you some more. Thank you for this moment; thank you for the strength; thank you for the inspiration; thank you for the people in this room. There have been angry prayers too, but they almost always turn into a thank you. And that is what I am sensing Christmas is about for me this year. It’s a celebration – a thank you to the Almighty. For turning up as a vulnerable creature and putting himself through the worst; for walking in our shoes and taking on our pain; for being here still.
And it’s a birthday. The actual date is in contention, I know, but the point is: To celebrate a birth. Having spent a few months reading a page of the New Testament every day, I can start to say that I am looking forward to my friend’s birthday party. I’m feeling far less worried about my confusions and dissatisfactions with the parts of the Bible I don’t get or don’t like. If I’m confused, I’m in good company; I note that the disciples seem to spend most of the Gospels saying: “What does that parable mean?” whilst Jesus sighs and says: “You still don’t get it!” What Nicky Gumbel said in a video we watched from Holy Trinity, Brompton, about his gaps in understanding of the Bible being like the gaps in a crossword – you don’t always know all the answers but you can start to get a sense of them by looking at the clues and the letters around the spaces – comforts me. He’s been reading the Bible for years. By reading it over time, I’ve started to feel like I am hanging out with an old friend. And we celebrate the birth of friends and loved ones…
Commitment-Phobe is on a search for God
This is an extract from the December 2014/January 2015 edition of Reform.